Which pot strain works best for gambling? Vegas budtenders share their tips

Desert Grown Farms indica “Cookie Face” at Essence Cannabis Dispensary.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Las Vegas and cannabis consumption may sound like a match, but with so many things to do and so many options to consider consuming, how do you know which buzz-builder to bet on? To cut through some of the cannabis clutter, we tapped some top budtenders (those who work behind the counters) at a selection of the city’s dispensaries and asked them for a few pot-pairing pointers.

Before we dive in, here are a few important things to remember.

• Although recreational cannabis use is legal in Nevada and has been since 2017, public consumption is not, and this includes at most hotel and casino properties.

• You’re likely to hear the folks across the counter (and below) using some technical-sounding jargon when making their recommendations. Of the two types of cannabis plant, cannabis sativa is generally thought to produce a more energetic, uplifting high, while cannabis indica produces a more mellow, relaxed high. A hybrid of the two shares some characteristics of both.


• You’re also likely to hear a lot about terpenes, the aromatic oils that give different cannabis strains their distinctive smells (limonene has a citrusy scent, for example, while pinene is redolent of pine trees).

• The effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, can vary by person and consumption method (smoking versus ingesting it, for example), so be cautious. “You can always take more,” the saying goes, “but you can’t take less.”

Essence Cannabis Dispensary
Cannabiotix sativa “L’Orange” and an Essence grinder sold at Essence Cannabis Dispensary on the Strip in Las Vegas.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

When there are wedding bells

If you’re visiting Vegas without a vehicle, beat feet to Essence Cannabis Dispensary (2307 S. Las Vegas Blvd.), a small dispensary on the northern end of the Strip between the Sahara and Stratosphere.

The interior feels spare and clinical but the staff is friendly, knowledgeable and patient with the walk-in canna-curious. Because the Las Vegas Boulevard outpost (there are several across the state) is just a few steps from the Chapel of the Bells wedding venue, budtender Lil Bit Atkinson offered some wedding-specific recommendations.

BaM Pretzel Bites, which is THC-infused caramel sandwiched between two pretzel squares and dipped in chocolate.
BaM Pretzel Bites, which is THC-infused caramel sandwiched between two pretzel squares and dipped in chocolate.
(Shannon Dorn)

A bachelorette party-starter: “Think edibles,” Atkinson said. “Definitely consider a THC-infused drink like CannaPunch’s Pineapple Mango Delight, which is good for socializing, or maybe BaM Pretzel Bites, which is THC-infused caramel sandwiched between two pretzel squares and dipped in chocolate.”

Wedding-night wind-down: “Go with a topical — like an intimacy oil,” she said. “Evergreen Organix makes a really nice one that you can use as a massage oil. It’s a base of coconut oil infused with vanilla essence, lavender oil and cannabis.”

If you’re going to a casino

Virtue Las Vegas' Pure Haze is a high-end Sativa strain. It has a strong, uplifting, clear-headed effect that allows for mobility.
Virtue Las Vegas’ Pure Haze is a high-end Sativa strain. It has a strong, uplifting, clear-headed effect that allows for mobility.
(Zachary Jorgensen / Cultivation-Virtue Las Vegas)

Jardin Premium Cannabis Dispensary (2900 E. Desert Inn Road), in an office park about three miles east of the Strip, caters mostly to locals and the celebrity set (including 2Chainz, who shot an episode of Viceland’s show “Most Expensivest” here). It’s also where you’ll find veteran budtender Brandi Lawrence offering weed wisdom.

If you’re hoping to court Lady Luck on the casino floor — or at a bare minimum keep focused for a night at the gaming tables, Lawrence suggests a sativa. “Or maybe a hybrid, because a hybrid will give you a nice balance and keep you from being too jittery,” she said, recommending Viva La Buds’ Bruce Banner for its relaxing but not sedating effects, and Virtue’s Pure Haze, which she says keeps the mind alert but the body relaxed.

“You don’t want to be too uptight but you want to still be able to focus,” she said.

If you’re pulling an all-nighter

NuWu Cannabis Marketplace (1235 Paiute Circle) is about three miles north of the northern end of the Vegas Strip so you’ll need a car, cab or ride-share. (Do not, under any circumstances, consume cannabis and try to drive.)

It’s home to a 24-hour drive-through and the only legal cannabis consumption lounge in the city because it’s on sovereign land.

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The 10,000-square-foot store, fronted by floor-to-ceiling glass walls, feels like a trendy brewpub. It’s where you’ll find Jackie Mondragon, one of the dispensary’s standouts budtenders, making her recommendations based on different strains’ terpene profile (those aforementioned aromatic oils).

If your aim is to stay up until the sun rises, look for a strain high in the terpene pinene “because it promotes alertness and keeps you up,” said Mondragon, adding that it’s also prized for its ability to combat inflammation, “so if you’re up and about and moving around, your feet won’t swell as much.” Two high-pinene strains stocked at NuWu are Smoke Signals Reserve OG Pebbles and Bohemian Brothers’ Starberry.

Planet 13 Las Vegas Dispensary
Planet 13 Las Vegas Dispensary is a cannabis superstore for the recreational marijuana user.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re seeing a show

Planet 13 Las Vegas Dispensary (2548 W. Desert Inn Road) is about half a mile west of the Strip but draws about 115,000 visitors a month by providing the same kind of over-the-top visual stimulation as Strip properties do (think neon trees sprouting from the roof, an hourly choreographed indoor drone show).

If you’re headed to one of the city’s myriad Cirque du Soleil shows, Chad Henry, one of the dispensary’s 85 budtenders, has a preflight recommendation: a sativa or a sativa-dominant hybrid if you plan to be in a theater seat.

"[Medizin’s] Mango Kush is a fantastic option,” he said, “It’s extremely cerebrally stimulating but not to the point that you’ll want to get up and move. ... You can sit there relaxed and enjoy everything that’s coming at you.”